For those of you who did not know, I lost my father to Parkinson’s disease in 2006. Every once in a while I find myself thinking about him (if I did not, what would that say about my love for him?). I was an 18 year old senior in High School, when my father took his last breath in that hospital bed. In many ways I was NOT ready to be responsible for him. Nor was I ready to deal with the loss of a father, and a friend. On the other hand, I knew this day was coming (when I found out he had Parkinson’s a few years prior). The only thing I did not know was why me? Why was I (of all people) the one who was going through this? This happened when I was in High School, during my senior year none the less.
While there is much frustration from this situation, I am able to see the good from it. I can’t tell you of the many situations that come up in my daily life, where I think about my dad. Sometimes it’s the smell of a room, or a man on the bus, or at the store. Sometimes it’s just in the way someone holds themselves. Other times it could be a song, or a joke someone says (my dad liked to joke around). Other times it’s the way someone uses words. Or other times I can’t even explain what it is that makes me think of him, I just do! For those of you who don’t know anything about Parkinson’s, it is a degenerative disease of the nervous system. One of the most common effects of this disease are tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face. If you want to learn more about Parkinson’s disease, you should check out Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. There are many organizations out there to help promote awareness and funds for a cure. You can always look up in your state, or city for hospitals that are working towards a cure (these are often great places to send some support). I did this very thing when it came time for my Senior Project, where I hosted a bowl-a-thon to help raise money for OHSU Parkinson’s Center of Oregon (you can check them out here). There are some other organizations that are doing the exact same thing across the country. One organization that is starting to make raise some awareness and funds for Parkinson’s research is the Michael J. Fox Foundation. This is a great organization to get involved with. IF you want to do something more nationally (as opposed to locally) I highly recommend the Michael J. Fox Foundation! ONE NOTE: I would be doing a dis service if I just left it at that! You need to do some research because some organizations support certain practices (stem cell research for example) that you may or may not approve of. So be aware of that!
While I know my dad had all of these symptoms, the one I remember the most is the tremor of his hands and the shuffle he had as he walked. It used to frustrate the heck out of people, because while he walked slowly (he could not walk any faster) he was always dragging his feet (caused by the tremor of the legs). The reason I bring this up, is because I ran into a picture on Facebook that sums up exactly what my dad’s motto must have been. He never said it was, but his attitude (to never give up), his desire to go out (even when he really should not), his desire to live his life while at the same time accepting the fact he was sick and needed help with seemingly easy tasks. The pic said “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the FIRST STEP”
What does this look like for us? Could this apply to us as leaders? As ministers? As parents? Or even as students? I think it can!! We often are our worst enemies when it comes to trying new things. Leaving home to go to college is a daunting task. But once we make that first step, we find ourselves developing friendships (some of us even marry one of those friends). The reality is, the staircase wasn’t as bad as we expected, we just had to take that first step and go! As a youth pastor, I have found many parents are afraid to let their kids go! While this concern is warranted, those (from my experience) who hold their kids back from dating, hanging with friends, etc. often find their kids in more trouble down the road. I’m not saying to allow them to do whatever they want! Rather, I am saying that sometimes its good to let your kids grow up and become adults! You made it through that staircase, what makes you think they won’t? As leaders, and more specifically ministers, we face this a lot! We often see ourselves as the leaders, and therefore we try to do all the work! We often forget we have volunteers who are capable and gifted in certain areas. I think we don’t use them because we are afraid to take that FIRST STEP and see where the staircase (our volunteers) will take us. It’s a control issue!
Remember: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just to take the FIRST STEP!”